How much time can I serve for a Raleigh shoplifting charge?

Most people think of shoplifting charges as minor charges. When they’re caught at the Crabtree Valley Mall, or Cary Town Center or one of the local Kohls, Wal-Marts or Targets, they suddenly realize just how terrible these charges can be, not just for their freedom, but also to their future job prospects.

An arrest is a public record, so the moment you are arrested is the moment a potential or current employer can see a record of your arrest. In addition, WRAL and other news outlets, including the tabloid The Slammer, frequently publish the booking photographs. Those photographs can remain on the web for years, even if your case is successfully dismissed and even expunged.

Moreover, certain websites, which operate almost like a scam, will post your photograph, and offer you the opportunity to take down those photographs if you pay them a fee. The problem is that once you pay, those networks will take down your photograph, only to post it on another website with another demand that you pay. While not ethical, this is probably quasi-legal behavior.

Do you face jail time for a shoplifting charge? The answer is, it depends on your record and on what you’ve been charged with.

If you’ve been charged with misdemeanor shoplifting or misdemeanor larceny, and you have no prior criminal record, you cannot be placed in jail by the judge. That sentencing block provides that the maximum possible crime is court costs, a fine, and community service, and possible probation, which can either be supervised or unsupervised.

The problem is that sometimes when people are in the process of committing a shoplifting offense, they either remove one of the anti-inventory devices that is designed to prevent theft or they try to use something like a lead-lined bag to prevent the items from giving off signals that trigger alarms.

Both of these acts – the removal of an anti-inventory device and the use of a lead-lined bag – qualify as felonies. In addition, stealing from a merchant by itself can be charged as a felony larceny on its own terms.

If charged as a felony, the shoplifting offense now qualifies for a jail sentence because it is a class H felony. It is rare for a first time offender to be sanctioned in that way.

Nonetheless, the mere fact that someone qualifies for a felony conviction raises the stakes, since a felony conviction will have life-long consequences, including affecting a person’s ability to have certain kinds of careers.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.